A single mother serving in the US Army will likely face criminal charges for refusing to be deployed to Afghanistan when it became clear there was no one to care for her 10-month-old son. Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, age 21, a member of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, was scheduled for deployment on November 5. She did not board her flight.
Hutchinson was arrested and has been confined to the Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, for the past 10 days. Charges have yet to be filed against the young mother, but she is currently under investigation.
Hutchinson felt she had no choice but to refuse deployment. To abandon her young son with no means in place to provide care was unthinkable. No less unthinkable were the demands placed upon her by the Army. Hutchinson’s attorney, Rai Sue Sussman, has informed the press that in spite of Hutchinson’s circumstances, her superior officers informed her that she would still have to be deployed, and her child placed in foster care. “She was really afraid of what would happen,” Sussman said, “that if she showed up they would send her to Afghanistan anyway and put her son with child protective services.”
The Army has denied these assertions. Kevin Larson, the spokesman for the Hunter Army Airfield, has insisted Hutchinson would not have been deployed if there were no means available for the care of her child, saying “I don't know what transpired, and the investigation will get to the bottom of it. If she would have come to the deployment terminal with her child, there’s no question she would not have been deployed.”
In spite of Larson’s claims and his efforts to make the Army out to be a caring and sensitive institution, the fact remains that Hutchinson made her difficult circumstances clear to her superiors, they ordered her to report for deployment in spite of it, and when she refused to comply she was thrown in jail.
Single parents enlisted in the US Army are required to provide a plan in which they designate a caretaker for their children in the event that they are sent into combat. Hutchinson had submitted a plan designating her mother, Angelique Hughes, as the caretaker of her son while she was away. Hutchinson’s child had spent two weeks with Hughes in October, but it proved to be too difficult.
In circumstances that themselves reveal the lack of health care and assistance available to working class families, Hughes was already providing care to her own mother and sister, both of whom are ill, as well as taking care of another of her own children with special needs. Hughes also runs a daycare center in her home, tending to the needs of 14 children each day.
Of the difficulties involved with adding her young grandson to her already overwhelming responsibilities, Hughes said, “This is an infant, and they require 24-hour care. It was very, very stressful, just too much for me to deal with.” Hughes returned the infant to his mother just days before she was scheduled to leave for Afghanistan. Since Hutchinson’s arrest, the child has once again been returned to Hughes.
The response of the military to Hutchinson’s circumstances is remarkable. Hutchinson’s duty was to serve as a cook for her brigade. She does not serve as a pilot, a translator, or in any otherwise irreplaceable position. And yet, the Army was prepared to force their young cook to Afghanistan and her infant son into foster care.
The Army’s response to Hutchinson’s refusal to comply with such outrageous demands is just as ruthless and entirely typical. The young mother must be punished, made an example for all others considering desertion.
The incidence of desertion in the Army has increased by 80 percent since the US government began its war drive in Afghanistan and Iraq, an expression of the trauma inflicted on the psyche of US soldiers ordered to take part in two brutal, neo-colonial wars where they face popular hostility on a daily basis.